Artist Statement

Exploring the Inner Cave of the Self

In the last couple of years, a documentary was released by Werner Herzog called the Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The focus of this film was an exploration of the cave paintings found in the Chauvet Cave in Southern France. As a response to this film and a book entitled, The Dawn of Art: the Chauvet Cave: the oldest known paintings in the world, I started painting cave art imagery. Little did I know that this research would lead me to exploring the premise that the cave art was actually created as a result of the artist ingesting an hallucinogenic tea called ayahuasca. 
As an art therapy student in 1993, one premise I remember in my post-graduate training was to resist the urge to interpret when a client completed a drawing for me. Recalling the lectures of my professor, Irene Dewdney, who was a pioneer in the field of Art Therapy in Canada and the research of her husband Selwyn Dewdney, an art therapist at Westminster Hospital in London, Ontario, I have arrived at some insight into my own art.
During his appointment as the first art therapist at Westminister Hospital in London working with schizophrenics, Selwyn also worked as a research associate for the Royal Ontario museum in Toronto. He spent years studying and recording the birch bark scrolls of the Native Ojibwa tribe. He and Irene spent many hours in a canoe looking for petroglyphs and pictographs in Ontario and Michigan. He eventually became known as the “Father of Rock Art in Canada”, by writing  a book called, “The Sacred Scrolls of the Southern Ojibway”  and then co-authoring a book entitled, “Indian Rock Art Paintings of the Great Lakes”.
Selwyn was interested in the similarity and the relationship between the art of his patients, the rock art markings and the birch bark scrolls. Selwyn resisted interpretation. He felt that the shapes and signs in the drawings of both rock art and his patients should be valued for what they are, private and personal graphic expressions of an individual. The affinity may lie in their significance as personal symbols of the artist. Images can hold many meanings at many different levels and it would take away from their importance if we were to conjecture. Some of the symbols are stereotypes and recognizable, but most are shrouded in mystery.
Symbolically, “The cave is thought to be closely related to the symbolic “heart”, and is often a place where the self and ego unite. Caves can be a secret passageway to an underworld, places in which to make contact with ancestors or the powers and forces which will eventually make their way into the world of light.” Carl Jung felt that “the cave represents the security and the impregnability of the unconscious and a symbol of containment.” For myself, I am using the unconscious dream-like renderings of the shamanic cave artists to explore the inner cave of the self. I hope you enjoy them.
Chauvet, Jean Marie& Deschamps, Eliette Brunel, Dawn of Art: the Chauvet Cave: the oldest known paintings in the world
Dewdney, Selwyn Hanington, The Sacred Srolls of the Southern Ojibway
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975
Hancock, Graham, Supernatural: Meetings with the ancient teachers of mankind, Random House, 2005
Morris, Joanne, Art and Healing, Selected Paintings and Drawings from the Dewdney Art Therapy Collection, Gallery Lambton, October 29, 1993
Cave, University of Michigan, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia Foundation Inc., October 20, 2013


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